How Did 'The Handmaid's Tale' End? Offred's Story Leaves Off On A Cliffhanger

Bryan Bedder/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

After watching the first few episodes of Hulu's new adaptation, you might find yourself wondering: How did The Handmaid's Tale end? (Because, let's face it, the ending of Episode 3, "Late," is as bleak as bleak gets.) Offred's story leaves off on a cliffhanger in Margaret Atwood's novel, but don't jump ship on the TV series just yet. Here's how The Handmaid's Tale ends.

Spoiler warning: You are about to read the ending of The Handmaid's Tale novel, which may also spoil the ending of the Hulu television series adaptation. You have been warned.

Events move fast at the end of The Handmaid's Tale, as Offred's relationships with the people in her household intertwine and spin out of control. Neither member of the couple to which she has been assigned has qualms about breaking the law. The Commander has coerced her into seeing him on the side, which is a crime. Serena Joy has brokered a baby-making arrangement between Offred and Nick, which is also illegal. The Handmaid has no real say in these matters, but she will bear the brunt of Gilead's punishment if things go south.

When Serena Joy learns about the Commander and Offred's trip to an underground brothel, she sends the Handmaid to her room to await punishment. When the Eyes' black van pulls up, Offred is certain that Serena Joy has reported on her to the authorities, but Nick tells her that the men are rescuers with the Mayday resistance movement. She goes with them — not that she has a choice — and on her way out she realizes that neither Serena Joy nor the Commander reported her, as they are both shocked at her arrest.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, $8.69, Amazon

The Handmaid's Tale ends without telling readers whether the Eyes who collected Offred were on the side of the state or the resistance. The novel epilogue takes place in 2195, at a time when students examine Offred's story as a historical artifact. The Handmaid recorded her tale on cassette tapes, which were recovered at a Bangor, Maine stop on the Underground Femaleroad: a path to freedom taken by Gileadean women.

The going theory at this later date is that Offred remained safe for long enough to record her experiences, but that she may have been recaptured before reaching Canada, given the narrative's open ending. Dozens of questions remain, including the Handmaid's true identity, if and when she escaped Gilead, and whether or not she was pregnant with Nick's child, as she suspected.

Hulu's take on The Handmaid's Tale may wrap up Offred's story with a definite ending, but only time will tell. According to Vox, showrunner Bruce Miller said in January that "he wants the series to run for as many seasons as possible," which means Hulu might not be done with Offred in the first 10 episodes. Readers and watchers will just have to wait to see what the Atwood adaptation has in store for us.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, $8.69, Amazon